When a Virginia resident is injured on someone else's property, they can hold the property owner legally responsible. These personal injury cases are premises liability claims, and they can include anything from a slip and fall accident to a dog bite attack. The primary factor for the owner's liability pertains to whether the underlying causes of the incident involved negligence. One must establish that the injury would not have happened if the property caretaker took reasonable steps to address the danger.
Victims of a severe premises injury must deal with extensive hospital bills, lost income, and even long-term consequences to their health. Can you sue someone if unsafe circumstances on their property injured you? In many cases, yes. If someone else’s carelessness created the conditions for your injury, you may have the right to file for compensation under Virginia law.
Common Premises Liability Injuries
The details of premises liability rules vary based on whether the incident happened on the premises of a business, a private home, or government-owned property. In general, all Virginia property owners have a legal duty to keep their indoor and outdoor spaces safe for anyone that visits the property legally. That includes visitors, employees, customers, and anyone else that wasn’t trespassing.
There’s a wide range of situations that can lead to a premises liability claim, such as:
#1. Slip and Fall Accidents
These dangerous situations occur when the victim slips or trips on a hazardous walking surface, which causes them to fall and hurt themselves. Slip and fall accidents can happen from slippery floors, cracked pavement, broken steps, torn carpeting, and defective stair rails. The injuries from a severe fall can include broken bones, a hip fracture, spinal cord injuries, or even traumatic brain damage.
#2. Dog Bites
Virginia dog owners are legally responsible for the injuries caused by their dog in an unprovoked attack, especially if the dog wasn’t leashed or properly fenced-in. Technically, Virginia has a “one bite” doctrine, which means owners are only liable for the damages from an attack if their dog already had a history of aggressive behavior, such as a previous biting incident. However, evidence may establish that an owner should have reasonably known that their dog was dangerous.
#3. Swimming Pool Accidents
Pools aren’t all fun and games, so having them on your property comes with legal responsibilities to prevent drowning and other tragic pool accidents. Homeowners must secure access to their pool and safeguard the well-being of anyone that uses it, especially children.
#4. Inadequate Security
Businesses must hire trained security guards, surveillance cameras, secure doors, and other precautions to keep their premises reasonably safe from crime. If poor security measures lead to an attack that causes injuries, the victim’s claim for damages will fall under the umbrella of a premises liability claim.
The Threshold For Liability in a Premises Liability Case In Virginia
Premises liability in Virginia depends on whether property owners make a reasonable effort to keep visitors safe. Negligence occurs when a property owner fails to do something that an ordinary person would have done under similar circumstances, creating a dangerous situation that causes someone harm.
A rule of thumb is that the law doesn’t hold property owners accountable for unforeseeable freak accidents unrelated to hazardous conditions. If the liable party couldn’t take any steps to prevent the accident, then it’s not negligence.
The legal threshold for a successful premises liability claim requires proving:
- The property’s owner or caretakers knew that there was a hazard on the property.
- The property’s owner or caretakers had enough time to either rectify the problem or provide adequate warnings about the hazardous situation and failed to do so.
- These dangerous conditions directly led to the victim’s injury.
- The victim’s injuries involve economic and non-economic damages.
Damages You Can Claim In Premises Liability Case
When property owners are negligent, the consequences for victims can be physically, financially, and emotionally devastating. Filing a premises liability claim is essential for recovering the compensation needed to get life back on track. A skilled attorney can help you identify and prove the wide-ranging losses caused by your injuries.
These damages can include:
- All past and future medical expenses, including hospital bills, prescription medications, assistive medical devices, and ongoing treatments like physical therapy. There may also be other out-of-pocket costs, like home health care aides who support your recovery.
- Lost income if there was a period when the injured victim couldn’t work. In the case of catastrophic injuries that leave victims with a disability, they can claim compensation for having a permanently reduced earning capacity or leaving the workforce altogether.
- Non-economic damages, like emotional distress, pain, suffering, or reduced quality of life. Virginia courts recognize that the emotional harms of getting injured are significant for victims and their families, even if they are not measurable.
Hiring a Virginia Premises Liability Attorney
You deserve compensation if you suffered serious injuries because a negligent property owner exposed you to unnecessary risk. Unfortunately, Virginia's contributory negligence laws have loopholes that favor property owners. This loophole can make it hard for victims to pursue and win a premises liability claim.
For example, it’s common for the defense attorneys of negligent property owners to blame victims for their injuries by claiming that the unsafe conditions should have been obvious or that the victim’s injuries were minor.
Winning compensation for your premises liability accident will require an experienced attorney that can build a compelling case, maximize the value of your claim, and secure fair compensation for your damages.